Bilingual Screenings of UH Student-Produced Telenovela Mini-Series on Alzheimer’s Disease

Feb. 28 Event Includes Panel Discussions and Resources from Community Partners

Students shooting video of telenovelas set
University of Houston students shot the mini series during the spring semester of 2021 primarily on campus.

The University of Houston’s Jack J. Valenti School of Communication and Department of Psychology, with Harris County Precinct 2, are hosting a bilingual screening of a soap opera mini-series produced, written and directed by UH students on Tuesday, Feb. 28 at the Harris County Precinct 2 North East Community Center.

The telenovela series, “Recuerdos de Mi Abuelo,” translated into English as “Memories of My Grandfather,” tells the story of an aging family patriarch dealing with his declining brain health and how it affects his entire family who supports him through his Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

The purpose of the series is to inform the Hispanic community about its risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Hispanics are 50% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s compared to non-Hispanic white people, yet they represent only 1% of clinical trials.

“In order to help reduce health disparities, we need to involve these communities in the decision-making process,” said Luis D. Medina, assistant professor of psychology. “There are various barriers to getting involved in research, including health literacy or what people actually know about Alzheimer’s disease. In the Hispanic/Latino communities, it is often thought of as just a part of aging.”

The telenovelas premiered in November 2022, but the work began a year earlier with a hackathon-style script writing contest in which the best script was turned into a telenovela series. Students fully wrote, produced, shot and edited the mini-series in both English and Spanish.

“The telenovelas are authentic; the Valenti students who wrote and produced them are from the Latino community. They grew up watching ‘novelas’ with their grandparents, and they have watched similar health issues take a toll on their families,” said Jen Vardeman, director of the School of Communication and associate professor of communication.

“They used their writing and producing skills to bring to life an important issue. Real-world experience like this prepares students to tell the stories of their communities as future film producers, journalists, public relations professionals and advertisers.”

The Feb. 28 screening will include a proclamation recognizing the work of the Engaging Communities of Hispanics/Latinos for Aging Research (ECHAR) Network, a collaborative of researchers, clinicians and community organizers, led by Medina and funded by the National Institute on Aging. The event will include screenings of both the Spanish and English versions of the telenovelas followed by bilingual panel discussions featuring Medina and research associates. Community partners will be available with information and resources; partners include the Collaborative on Aging Research and Multicultural Assessment at UH, Area Agency on Aging, Legacy Health, Vecino Health, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, AARP and Alzheimer's Association. More information and RSVP.

Who: UH Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, UH Department of Psychology and  Harris County Precinct 2

What: Screenings of UH student-produced telenovela mini-series on Alzheimer’s awareness

Where: Harris County Precinct 2 North East Community Center, 10918 Bentley St., Houston, TX 77093

When: Tuesday, Feb. 28 from 5 to 7 p.m.